See the World Through My Eyes

Posts tagged “Africa

About Creativity

creativity

Hi my name is Michael and I am creative director at a leading marketing firm.

It’s 6am and I am watching the sunrise at the waterfront on the beach with my laptop wide open and a blank page staring back at me. I feel inspired but not sure what to write about. I am on a fact finding mission to understand two different consumer groups on behalf of the organization I work with. With the information I collect, we will be able to generate insights that we we use to develop creative strategies for our clients. This is what sets us apart as one of Africa’s fastest growing below the line agencies. Personally I can’t help feeling lucky and undeserving because deep down I know that anyone can do the job that I am about to do.

Some people are born artistic; that I totally agree. But the notion that some people are born creative is the thing that I will never concur with. I believe that everyone has the ability to be creative and I also believe that regardless of what profession or walks of life we come from, we all need creativity because it’s what sets us apart in everything that we do.

Growing up, I loved drawing and painting and one of my greatest influences of my life was my mother. You see, when I first showed her something I had drawn, she immediately told be it was the best drawing she’d seen in her life. That made me very happy and I can only remember that from then on drawing became my oxygen. I’d draw everyday and everywhere just so I could make people happy. Looking back, I think the first drawing I showed my mom was the most horrible sketch ever. She just happened to know the secret of inspiring talent. She knew that her response should ignite a spark that in turn would open up a world of possibilities for me. And that is exactly what happened.

As I grew up I realized that the world was flooded with artists and good ones at that. In my three decades, I have seen amazing talent often unsung and appreciated. You will always find them in art centers and street corners, broke, spiritual, conscious and unmotivated. In the art circles we are always joking that an artist only becomes rich and famous when they die. Ironically this is true most of the time. As painful as it sounds, the world really doesn’t need art if it [art] doesn’t address any challenge. So art without purpose just breeds artists. Art with purpose gives rise to creatives and problem solvers.

When I was 18, I decided I would be a graphic designer. Upon trying it out I realized that it was harder than I had earlier imagined. The responses to my work were more brutal and hardly encouraging. This is because design is all about addressing challenges. I discovered that being good in art wouldn’t just cut it if no one saw it’s usefulness. The world wanted something that addressed ITS challenges. I was used to making art straight out of my heart and this was new ground; I had to create art that needed to address the needs of others. To save my budding career now under threat, I decided I would try to understand what it is that successful designers did different.

I discovered that successful designers had one thing in common. They were always seeking to understand the dynamics. I realized that all along I had been seeking to understand myself and that is why I produced work that only made me happy and thus ended up seeking only positive encouragement from others. This was my eureka moment that changed everything.

Nowadays I get offended when someone calls me an artist because I don’t make art, I solve problems. I am a creative.

To harness creativity, I learnt that I needed to absorb knowledge from the environment. Yes, it was as basic as reading the paper everyday or asking everyone the most awkward questions; always seeking to understand who everyone else was and what they needed. I noticed the change immediately as I started realizing how the world is overwhelmingly filled with opportunity.

I’d passed by the shoe shiner’s everyday just so he could tell me what was going on in the city. The newspaper vendor always knew the politics of the day and what was going to happen tomorrow. I discovered our teal lady at the office always had an opinion on the challenges women were going through and all this information just opened up my eyes to a world I had been blind to since birth. I began to understand why companies and brands were going down while others succeeded within the same environment. It became my purpose to always seek information. It changed my paradigm and made my work better and as a designer. I had started making real impact.

I realized that as a creative designer, my work determined the bottomline for the organization I worked with and also the value of the brands I worked on. As a result I firmly believe that in creativity, knowledge is power. The key to creativity is understanding the dynamics of the situation in question in great detail and using this information to produce fresh, exciting and impactful solutions. This realization has been my lifestyle since then.

I believe that regardless of what your profession is, creativity can give you positive results and lasting impact. Whether you are a brand manager, accountant, actuarial scientist, doctor, janitor you name it. The principles of creativity work in the same way. Everyone has the ability to be creative. First get to understand the dynamics well, then ask yourself how you can do it bigger, better, different and with a more lasting impact. Creativity expands the playing ground and increases opportunity. With creativity you have competitive advantage and an improved bottom line. To be effective, creativity needs to be part of our daily life. Creativity is not rocket science but rather a power that is within reach to all of us. Creativity makes what we do enjoyable because it fuels passion.

So everything you have put down on your to do list today is essentially an opportunity to tap into your creative potential. That my friends is creativity lesson 101.

Next time I will write about how we can inspire creativity in organizations for better performance.

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Oh This Woman!

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I have always been a spoilt kid. Apart from reading me story books at bed time (oh yes she did until I was 10!) my mother has been the voice in my head all my life. Despite our ups and downs as a family, she has been our rock and the strong glue that holds us together. This woman happens to be a thousand years old in wisdom. She passes wisdom in a way that is funny, reflective and unimposing. I credit her for installing in us this ever present homing instinct that guides us back to consciousness every time we get caught up in life’s complexities. I’ve been in serious trouble a couple of times in my life and it is her words that brought me back. I have deep respect for all mothers and the role they take in shaping who we are. Everyday is Mothers Day.

On Humility
She said “My son, to work is worship God. Even the lowest of jobs has to be done by someone. You were born a prince but also a servant. Let no title be too big for you and let no humble task be too low for you to carry out because humility is an expression of confidence and gratefulness. A humble man is a powerful man. He can stand confidently before Kings and be trusted to lead by the poor”

On Love
She said “Love is first an attraction then a choice. If you find someone you truly love, hold on to them. Love is loyal despite betrayal. Love forgives despite hurt. When you love someone you stand by them unconditionally. Love is what you make it to be. You can be happy if you choose to be happy. You can never be sure of the character of a person you love as it takes time but in the meantime you can trust. But look for a person who loves God because only a person who loves God can truly love another human being. The rest are details. You will fight over the tooth paste tube and the socks you left at the door but you will never fall out of love.”

On Being a Man
She said “A man is only as good as his word. The character of a man is built of his action. A man never complains, he finds solutions. He takes care of those he loves and offers help to those in need. A man is honest and industrious. A man does not give up. A man is not scared to love and to say sorry. In the face of adversity, a man stands his ground. A real man knows that sometimes to win he has to lose. A man is the high priest of the house. A protector and warrior who lays down his life for his family.”

On Industry
She said “As long as you have breath and are of sound mind, God has given you everything you need to succeed. From the deepest holes on the ground come the rarest diamonds. Never work for profit because this type of gain does not last. Work to fulfill your purpose because real wealth comes as a by product of a passion fully lived. Do not spend your gains on eating like a King but spend them on the moments that count. After all they are the most eternal of all investments.”

On Sincerity
She said “To be sincere is to conquer yourself. To conquer yourself is to conquer the world. Know what you like and what you dislike. Know what you want and what you need. Know thyself. Be honest with yourself and you will know the reason why you are here. Be sincere with everyone especially the ones you love. Sincerity is the deepest and most profound expression of love.”

On Frugality
She said “ Son, the pain of work should be a reminder that nothing comes easy. Take care of the little you have. Water it and let it grow but most of all use it wisely. The bible says ‘A fool and his money are soon parted’. Thriftiness shows gratitude and it is the ultimate sign of responsibility. To be frugal is to be the master over money and not a slave to it. Before you spend, think. Do not spend your hard earned money to please others who add no value to your life. Every coin you spend should be an investment. Remember the story of the servants who were given talents?”

On Selflessness
She said “I would be sad if I heard that you did everything just so your own belly would be full. I would be ashamed to hear you saw suffering yet you turned a blind eye when you could have ended it. We are all here to take care of God’s Children. God gives you strength and wealth to take care of others. You my son are just a tool that He uses. You can never be too good to serve others. I love you but I would be proud to hear that you met your last day giving up your life so that another would live. After all, what is it in this world that I cannot give up for you?”

On Devotion
She said “ If I was laying on my death bed today waiting for my last breath, I would only have one instruction to give you. Love God and devote your life to Him and you will receive measure beyond your wildest dreams. It is only a fool that says God  does not exist. There are many questions that make you doubt if He is really there so devote your life to seeking Him. God is not on trial so as to be expected to prove His existence. Pay attention, look close and in your silence you will find Him. I have felt his presence and I have seen his work and I am still in awe of his greatness.

On Dreams
She said “In your time, life will be tough. Misery and hopelessness will be the order of the day. But you my children are special. You have the world under your feet. Write your dreams down and make it a prayer to God to bring them to life. God will grant you the desires of your heart but first you have to be clear of what you want. Dreams do not come to us by chance. They are the distant echo of destiny. It is sad for a man to die without fulfilling his purpose. Let your dreams be devoid of boundaries and let no one tell you that it can’t be done because it hasn’t been done before. Dreams become thoughts and thoughts become things.”

This woman is amazing. 


Have You Found Yourself?

purpose One of the biggest challenges of our generation is knowing what our purpose is and how to achieve our dreams.

I’ve talked to many people but sadly most of them don’t seem to know their purpose and what they want from life. I too have struggled with this question all my life and I still am. I hate that it has become the monkey on my back and I hate that I have to wake up everyday to look for myself. I can’t concentrate at anything I do and I have turned into a hopeless scatter brain. I feel like time is running out and the prospect of growing old and miserable, haunted by dreams that never materialized scares me. It makes me go into panic; a miserable state that can be observed by looking at how many things I’ve tried in my life.

I have tried starting my own business more than once and I have tried going up the ladder in my career and still, there is this nagging feeling that I am just not where I want to be.

When I’m at work I find my mind wandering to distant places and I am fearful that maybe those places are where I should be instead. I observe other people and suddenly it looks like everyone is getting onto their path. They seem happy and everything they do looks deliberate and based on a well defined purpose.

So is it that I have failed in finding my path or am I expecting [unrealistically] too much from life? Do I have the wrong paradigm of how life works? Is my purpose locked in this ‘uneventful’ job that I don’t seem to give the appreciation it deserves? Am I part of those who will never amount to anything? Is that my destiny?

On the other hand I also see many people who are like me. People who don’t have a clear plan of what they would do if they won a million dollars today. People who procrastinate and are always anxious because they are not sure of the future. One day you are excited about this new idea you’re pursuing and the next day you’re not sure if it is what you want. Your life goes in phases that come and end as fast as a flame on a matchstick. First there is the ‘I need to buy land phase’, then comes the ‘I need to start saving phase’ and today you’re on the ‘I need to start a business’ phase and the cycle never ends.

I’ve heard people say that you are always in the path that God wants you to be but I am beginning to doubt that. Why? because if this is where He wanted me to be, why am I not happy? Why do I feel like I am in limbo?

I have seen many of our parents live their lives in simplicity and mediocrity; retiring at sixty five and immediately going into the last phase of life where they miserably wait for their sunset. Somehow it has always felt wrong because [I believe] life is not meant to be a mere existence and a process that is predictable as to how it ends. What happened to dreams? At what point do dreams die? Is it to late for my parents to start dreaming all over again? Why I’m I getting sucked into the same cycle of broken dreams and surrendering without a fight? Why is this the more comfortable path to follow?

I’ve had a good career so far; it would be ungrateful for me to ignore that. Learning new things has been the best part of it all. Being challenged to do the impossible has kept my adrenaline pumping and like a junkie, I want more. I want more because there is this strong unshakable urge inside me that tells me I have a higher purpose. Something I can write my name on. That THING that I can do for free and not worry where money will come from because it will be automatic. That purpose that will make my life count for something. I want to be remembered for something great!

I have looked for it everywhere and I am willing to do everything to know why I am here. Sometimes I wish God would use my friends, family or even a stranger to tell me what is it that I am good at so I can dive into it NOW. Or maybe that’s not the way He speaks, maybe it is. But at the end of the day I just want a nudge in the right direction. Or maybe I have already been nudged but was too distracted to feel it? Where is that ONE clear hint that will show me which door to knock? Or maybe a hint is not supposed to be clear after all?

Whatever and wherever my purpose is, I have decided I’d rather die trying to find it. I can no longer sail blind in this darkness. I need to find a beacon and I need to find it sooner than later. I hate losing sleep over things I can’t decipher. I hate to be a person who always changes his dreams because he doesn’t know where he is going. One thing I am sure though, is that I am here for a purpose. What it is, I don’t know. So I’m going to start my search and I will hunt down my purpose to the ends of the earth if need be.

Last week I decided I will put all my dreams on paper because I had a feeling they will lead me to my purpose. It was a challenging experience to decide on what I want for my future, but it’s a start. After pasting cut-out pictures of what I want in life on a white page, I am starting to have this strange experience that I like. For some reason, I feel like I am on to something good and long term.  For once I am pretty clear on my dreams and when I would want to achieve them. How I am going to achieve this is the billion dollar question. Whether this yields anything only time can tell, but I can’t shake off the conviction that this is probably what I should have done years ago.

You see when I was young, my mother taught me this trick and it got me my first car. She told me to write down what I wanted in future and keep it where I could see it every day. I bought a car a few days to my twenty fourth birthday -which is the date I had written down. When you are a child belief is raw and unadulterated, but as you grow older logic gnaws at your dreams and suddenly they become fantasies. I guess somewhere along the way I forgot the basics; that you have to visualize what you want because it’s the first sign that you can and will most likely get it.

It’s time I started all over again. After all, maybe life isn’t about finding yourself but creating yourself.

I’d like you to take a moment and ask yourself this simple question. Have I found myself?


Unnecessary Jargon

“He just lay there motionless. His right hand hang lifelessly from the edge of the bed as a thick steady flow of blood connected his twitching index finger to the cold floor. He could feel his body jerking slightly as life drained from his veins. All the while, his eyes wouldn’t drop their gaze on her. His mouth was dry and he could taste the salty-metallic character of blood and bile. A stream of tear ran down his temple from his right eye. He couldn’t feel any pain yet he knew it was the last stroke. Visions of his life’s memories flashed in his mind’s eye as he struggled to keep his sight fixed on her. He felt hollow and hopelessly sad. He had loved her with his life and this was how it was going to end.

Lexi sat on the floor at the far end of the room with the knife still held in her hand. Her face displayed no emotion. Her big eyes were now beady and she didn’t blink regardless of how much her make-up glazed her eye lids. She couldn’t figure out what she was feeling. This scene had played in her mind over and over again and now the veil between her dreams and reality seems to have been lifted. She couldn’t hold back her tears and sighs each time he choked in his own blood as he struggled to breath out her name…”

I have been trying to figure out if this is the type of book I’d write in order to stamp my mark in this tough world of writing. It’s every writer‘s dream to do a book that will eventually be shot in film. But being from Africa, what are my chances? Who would want to publish me? Would you want to read my book? Have you noticed that as much as we have some of the most talented writers in our continent we still have very few readable books? Much of African writing is paralyzed by the selfish urge of our authors trying to show off their command of language. I have tried time and time again to read  African literature only to give up midway. We use English that the English themselves would find hard to understand. Instead of communicate, we obscure and confuse. While we are busy showing off our command of foreign languages, the rest of the world is talking, communicating and entertaining! We believe that sophisticated wording will earn us awards [which it does sometimes]. We still live in a world where we immortalize writers who’s books our future generations will never read. In the end, we shut the world out and we shut ourselves in. What a waste! Don’t get me wrong as I rant. I respect those who paved the way so the world would listen to us but is it wrong to ask that we change with the times? Is it a crime to ask for just one piece of literature that doesn’t feel like solving Rubik’s cube? Let’s do literature that children can read and enjoy. Let’s communicate in a simple manner so that our next generations will be proud to be African.

Have you noticed that Hollywood has run dry and is recycling its content? Every film feels like Déjà vu? Every book you read from the first world feels like a regurgitation of another book written before. As the first world slides into monotony, our history and accounts fade away. Africa is home to the most intriguing stories the world will ever hear. We live in color. We have so much we can talk about. Did you ever read Waris Diries’s Desert Flower? Well don’t just sit there, google it!  Get it! We have what it takes to do a good script. All we have to do is just communicate in a manner that is easy to understand. The world is holding its breath waiting for the next big book, film or story from Africa.

When we were young, my father bought us a wall plaque that was a picture of 3 cute kittens shot from a low angle. The inscription  below the picture read, “If you do not raise your eyes, you will always think you are at the highest point”. Let’s fight the urge to stun our readers with unnecessary jargon.

This post is dedicated to all of us who dream of becoming celebrated authors someday. Just write and communicate in a manner that we can all understand.

If you ever come across any good African writer that is easy to understand, do alert me.


Killing The Chief of Staff

I recently came across this very outrageous writer called Prestone Adie whom I strongly believe deserves a medal. I choose to call him outrageous because I am yet to figure out why this article made me laugh and eventually fart involuntarily. He is a very intelligent and gripping story teller and I also suspect he is a very disgusting individual to have a beer with. I would hate to imagine the agony his close friends go through by association. Read this and just tell me flat out if I have praised him a bit too much. Oh and Big Up Camp Mulla on their video ” Hold it Down”. These kids are Legendary. Watch it as you read 🙂

By Prestone Adie
I struggle to keep my eyes closed. Every time I catch a glimpse of the dark land something jerks me awake. I’ve been at this the last 20 minutes or so. This is not my favourite past time, at least not at this moment of the day. Seated close to me is a lady who I guess got her size matters figured out. She occupies every space in her seat and most of mine. Who am I to complain after all she’s fearfully and wonderfully made; in this case I bet the potter did a tonne fearfully and a tiny wonderfully. I understand there are men who like this size. Again, am just a piece in the puzzle I can’t complain why this little space is where the potter let me fit.  I pull and tug to fit the seatbelt at least to be sure I won’t fall off should this bumpy ride stay this way. I give up when I realize the belt might have been consumed in her mighty butthole. She has every luggage on her lap; the yellow extra large polythene, a kuku, a hunting bag( no other bag is that big) and a large china phone. One of those phones that I bet come with CD players. Did I mention she loves her music loud, I mean no ear phones but the classic palito on hand. I bet this must be the reason can’t get any sleep because suppose she decides to play Brick breaker on that phone who knows the size of bricks it has and whether virtual reality could be real at any point in time?

This episode of my life reminds me of the time I took a group of Philistine friends of mine to Nakuru. They kept asking questions on and off in a language close to English, maybe it was English because most words after serious explanation sounded English to me. They talked of how happy they were to have come to the nativity of US president and asked me whether I would take them there. I said yes and named my price that’s when I realized Kikuyu is not a tribe in Kenya, they are spread all over the world. They lectured me on the proper ways to treat foreigners even if I was playing host. We might be foreigners but we know that given a thousand shillings is your highest monetary denominator one must always find change whenever they use it, they said. They told me how they had been to Kenya before and even gone to it’s second largest city, Kampala. In fact they said Kampala had the best Kenyan women because they knelt down to greet their men and showed the highest respect. When I challenged them why they didn’t get married to them they said how dark thighs dimmed their sexual appetite.

Truth be told, I had hosted these Goliath men for the last 1 week and by then I had taught them the lines of “Mgeni siku ya kwanza…” which they sang every time they could. Am not a bad host, that much I know because my mum had taught me well. Question is how much of that do I remember or use. Let me whine a little. In my neighborhood I am a very respectable man. For one I don’t drink and when I do I don’t tell. Next, I don’t play loud music mostly because my other neighbours have better systems unlike my version of a subwoofer which is basically a stolen matatu speaker placed inside out in a cut Jerrican that I proudly made in campus, Genius huh! Again, the kids on the block love me, they want to be like me when they grow up however much I keep beseeching them to have different goals because even me didn’t want to be like me when I grow up. These kids come calling when they can and that’s where the problem comes with my guests. They walk naked in the house and say clothing is something for people who are not proud of their bodies. Am not proud of their bodies. They take pictures every other time and record everything including the time I was shouting at my mum for pledging a 10000 give away at church in my  name. Yeah! Times are hard but that’s a fact I don’t want my parents to know because they believe am one of their successful projects. These Goliath people don’t flash the toilet and say that in their country they have automatic flashing systems that go swoosh when you are done losing weight. They hate ugali and love uji, how’s that even possible. They love nyama choma and prefer I cook them nyama choma than ugali and sukuma wiki. They like Jamaican songs and believe the Jamaican language is the one used in the God’s must be crazy. In a nutshell they are quite the guests.

Once on the trip to Nakuru I told them that Zebra’s are called Punda milia and donkey punda, an action I soon came to regret when they kept shouting punda milia at everything they saw. Then I told them that Nyani is Kiswahili for hi so that they could give me some fun in the car while they kept exchanging pleasantries and they ended up using it on a traffic police officer.  Long story short thank God I borrowed a turbo charged land rover hard body for this trip cos damn! How many horse power does that thing produce again?

I remember on the second day when they skyped a friend of theirs in Australia who gave me a hard time explaining that my dad is human and not a chimp. After the call I took out the family album and compared with the evolution pictures on the internet.

Actually I understand why David had to kill their chief of staff with a stone from river Tana.  These people are a pain in the ass. There’s a reason why David is the hero of this story and am not surprised he’s a Maasai, after all they are the only people I know who like David kill lions and graze their father’s cattle. Here’s a question for y’all, What is the average height of a philistine because Goliath is the first and the last I know who was both huge and tall? Is that why he was made the chief of staff? Do they have oval faced women there or is round their only version of sexy?

Here’s a pointer. While men say women whine, am a masculine version of a woman because I complain a lot and that should not make one think I didn’t have fun. These philistines gave me three things when they were around. One is fun like never before. Then there’s a million pictures of nude men on my desktop which I have learnt to delete without looking. And finally, most significant of all they made me bankrupt.


The Truth About Libya

First of all I would like to say the views expressed in this post are not mine but I agree with the author that the truth has been skewed in Libya‘s case. Being a great subscriber to Pan-Africanism, I believe strongly that it is in our continent’s best interests for NATO’s involvement in Libya to cease. I don’t believe that NATO or any of the powerful western nations have the capacity to solve African problems. I would like you to take a moment and reflect on the events of the past two decades where ‘intervention’ has been employed. I’m talking about, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the Americas. I am yet to see positive change. They will label bold leaders as dictators and will move in to ‘help’ nations in crisis. We should look past that and ask ourselves ‘What’s in it for them?‘.  Today, I stand my ground. African problems need African solutions. Let all put their cards on the table. We have Southern Sudan to show for our portfolio. What do they have to show? Enjoy this great read and comment. – Michael Ngigi

By Stephen Goodson

Colonel Muammar Gadaffi is frequently referred to in the media as a “mad dictator” and “bloody tyrant”, but do these allegations accord with the facts?

Libya consists of over 15O tribes, with the two main groups, the Meghabra living in Tripolitania in the west and the Wafallah living in Cyrenaica in the east. Previous attempts to unite these tribes by the Turkish (1855-1911) and ltalian {1911-43) colonial rulers failed and the country was split in two for administrative purposes.

Oil was discovered in Libya in 1959, but King ldris of the Senussi tribe allowed most of the oil profits to be siphoned into the coffers of the oil companies. The coup d’etat on 1 September 1969 led by Colonel Gadaffi had countrywide support. He subsequently married a woman from the royal Barqa tribe and adroitly unified the nation.

By retaining Libya’s oil wealth for the benefit of all its people, Gadaffi had created a socialist paradise. There is no unemployment, Libya has the highest GDP in .Africa, less than 5% of the population is classified as poor and it has fewer people living below the poverty datum line than for example in Holland. Life expectancy is 75 years and is the highest in Africa and I0% above the world average.

With the exception of the nomadic Bedouin and Tuareg tribes, most Libyan families possess a house and a car. There is free health care and education and not surprisingly Libya has a literacy rate of 82%. Last year Gadaffi distributed $500 to each man, woman and child (population 6.5 million).

Libya has a tolerable human rights record and stands at 61 on the International Incarceration Index, comparable with countries in central Europe (the lower the rating, the lower the standing – the USA occupies the no.1 spot!). There is hardly any crime and only rebels and traitors are dealt with harshly.

Anyone who has read Gadaffi’s little Green Book will realize that he is a thoughtful and enlightened leader. Libya has been accused of having committed numerous acts of terrorism in the past, but many of these have been perpetrated by foreign intelligence agencies as false flag operations – the Lockerbie bombing being a prime example.

The CIA and MI6 and their frontmen have been stoking up dissent in the east of the country for almost 30 years. Libya produces exceptionally high quality light crude oil and its production cost of $1 a barrel, compared to the current price of $115, is the lowest in the world.

Riba (usury) is not permitted. The Central bank of Libya is a wholly-owned by the Libyan Government and is run as a state bank, issuing all government loans free of interest. This is in contrast to the exploitative fractional reserve banking system of the West. The no-fly zone and the bombing of Libya have nothing to do with the protection of civilians. It is an act of war ­ a blatant and crude attempt by the oil corporations and international bankers to steal the wealth of Libya.

I have tried to search for the author but he still remains in the shadows. However I believe that Stephen Goodson is the leader of the Abolition of Income Tax and Usury Party of South Africa. If you have information as to how I can reach him, let me know.


Theory of a Black Man

Black man country
On the flight to Ethiopia, I meet a friendly gentleman by the name Hakim Geteye. He introduces himself as the mechanical technician on board with over twenty years experience. It is his last day on the job so it’s understandable why he is in a good mood. We talk about airplanes (duh!), the economy, world politics and various other general interest subjects. One subject that especially catches my interest is inequality. I can’t believe it when Hakim tells me to expect racial discrimination in Ethiopia. On probing further, he tells me that quite a number of Ethiopians do not consider themselves African; the reason why they treat fellow Africans ‘differently’. I refuse to believe him. I just can’t imagine my fellow African mistreating me just because I am… Afican! When I get off the plane I am lucky to find a seat in the waiting area at Addis Ababa‘s Bole International Airport. After three hours trying to get comfortable on the hard bench, I decide to have a drink at the restaurant at the far end of the lounge.

It starts with a sneer from the waitress after I motion her over, which I ignore. I choose to assume that it’s not meant for me. I keep calling out to her until at some point I figure she could be deaf [It happens]. So I decide to walk up to the counter and order my drink. As I walk to the front of the restaurant, another customer who has just walked in calls the waitress over to his table. I am astonished when she shoots past me to serve this particular customer. I feel small and angry. Another customer who I assume is Ethiopian, notices the helpless look on my face and decides to help me out in one sentence.

” White people tip, black people don’t”.

Black man at the door.
I have 5 minutes to get to the Hilton. I managed to clinch a deal with some Israelis who want to set up a meat processing plant in the country. Today, they  want to sign off. If this goes well, I could end up with a very good package. I break into a run and I’m at the entrance in no time. This is one business I wouldn’t dare lose. At the door, I am stopped by the security guard who asks me where I’m going. For a moment I pose trying to catch my breath and just as I am about to inform him he nature of my visit, a tour van comes to a halt at the hotel entrance. A group of tourists seemingly European alight from the bus and pass between me and the guard. As if by instinct, the guard scurries off to say jambo and karibu to the new visitors while lowering his hat and clasping his hands together in humility. They ignore his greetings and head to the reception. Mr. ‘Security’ comes back and continues interrogating me on the nature of my visit. I am angry. I glance at myself in the reflection on the floor-to-ceiling windows. Don’t I look normal? I am smartly dressed in a dark suit, black tie and white shirt. WTF (It’s not what you think). Anyway, I ignore his question and empty my pockets of coins and my cellphone as I walk through the metal detector in the foyer. As I pick my items on the other side, the guard ‘kindly’ remarks that that ‘it’s not a must’ that I pick the coins. Why? Because it doesn’t ‘look right’ for a man in such a ‘nice’ suit to walk around with noisy coins. By this time, I am shaking from rage…

Black man cuisine.
This food is dry. I ordered rice and fried beef but i didn’t expect it to come without some gravy. I signal to the waiter and ask for some soup. She politely tells me that they only serve gravy or soup when one has ordered fish fillet or pepper steak. I ask her to then explain how I am supposed to eat such a choking-dry meal. She politely tells me that it’s a management decision and that there is nothing she can do. I am furious.  I then ask her to bring me ketchup, maybe it’ll help. She hands me the ketchup and I proceed to make my food edible. After a minute, I realize that she is still standing there. I smile at her and politely tell her that I am fine. The ketchup will work just fine. She politely responds that she is waiting for me to finish with the ketchup because the management requires her to repossess the ketchup after the customer has had their first squeeze. She takes the ketchup and deposits it at the counter. Does this sound a bit too familiar? Agony is…

Black man justice.
A huge mob has surrounded the bus that been victim to hijackers a few moments ago. The leader of the faint attempt is forced to come out of the bus that is now parked diagonally in the middle of the road by angry citizens. Like a pack of hungry hyenas, they erupt into a frenzy, baying for his blood. The suspect kneels in front of the bus and pleads for his life. The crowd goes wild, and for a moment all one can hear is “Kill! Kill! Kill!”. They have had enough. They start pelting the suspect with stones. Huge stones. One can clearly hear the impact as the stones land on the suspect’s head. For a split second, I witness the suspect’s temple split open from impact. The crowd wants more. Someone in the crowd pleads for mercy on behalf of the suspect. He goes silent when another person accuses him of being a sympathizer. It is sad how frustrated the citizens have become. There is little anyone can do at this point. Part of the key people in the crowd that can change this whole picture are three police officers. Against the requests of civilized by-standers, the three officers refuse to rescue the suspect. Minutes later, the suspect lies dead on the street, his skull crushed underneath a 60 pound stone. No one knows his name or why he’s lying there on the street. A citizen with the same right to life as you and me…

Black man down.
I don’t know when this happened  but I am sad at what we’ve turned into. What makes us not want to be associated with who we are? What makes us treat each other with contempt? We are all to blame. We are quick to smile at foreigners and also quick to judge and condemn our own. Funny, I’ve heard black women wish that they had blue eyes and blond hair. I have seen black people take drugs to lighten their skin. Where did the black pride go? I don’t condemn you. I believe you have your reasons….


Paws For Thought

So I’m at the dog pound having my fur and claws done when I overhear a conversation that sounds quite interesting. These two customers are having an interesting discussion on life. Why are Africans the most volatile people on earth. Where the hell do our problems come from? Just what is wrong with us? Is there a solution? So the conversation draws mixed reactions from both dogs and eventually the whole pound sounds like a bar in a mental hospital. I choose to keep quiet and ignore the whole conversation. I refuse to engage in such discussions that don’t bear solutions. However being in privileged position of a writer, I can jot down my thoughts; a better chance that my pups will read them when they’re older. I have a feeling that they will listen and follow my dogvise. I have quite a few provoking thoughts that I would like to share with you bark to bark. So you can either choose to fetch my bone or go pee in another bush outside my territory.

Introduction
Ever wondered why men are  hesitant when it comes to the commitment of marriage? Have you ever stopped to think why he keeps you around but hasn’t yet made ‘the move’? Well I’ll tell you one simple reason. It is COMPLICATED! Meet my Joe who’s been in a relationship for five years. He is a good guy and he loves his girl to death. Unfortunately, he hasn’t yet proposed to her. Her name is Joy. Stunningly beautiful and smart, she is every man’s dream. She is a home maker and a tiger. A rare combo. Infact, Joe would be a stupid dog if he ever lost her because even his best friend wouldn’t mind risking a 15 year friendship for this woman.

Joe works as a junior clerk in a shoe factory in downtown Nairobi. He works hard as he has to support his ailing parents and siblings who are still in high school. Joy works as a sales person in a Chinese owned health products outlet. She also sends money home every now and then as she also comes from a very humble background. Their salaries are meagre, but they still manage to get by. They are hopeful that everything will get better. Joe and Joy have lived together for three years and now plan to start a family together.

Situation analysis
Bark to Joe. They say romance happens only between two people who love each other unconditionally. How blissful. Let me tell you what the future holds for poor Joe. At that time when he thinks he is ready, he will propose and Joy will say yes. Then the determining period that we call engagement will begin, and they will realize that they were actually meant to be together. So Joe will take Joy to meet his parents and they will definitely love her. Next, they will plan to meet Joy’s parents just to inform them that they are the ones in possession of this ‘lost goat’. How lovely. Two young people with a great future following customs to the satisfaction of society. So this particular meeting will go well and they will leave the girl’s home feeling like conquerors. So the negotiations will start and for a while everything will seem to look orderly and exciting.

Exit bliss enter reality
Being a good guy, Joe believes that the world revolves around good will so he will be eager to round up his elders, who will be act as representatives in the negotiations. On the other hand, Joy’s parents will start preparing for a ngurario and will name their negotiation line up like a soccer team. D-day will begin in confusion because Joe’s parents will appear with ‘uncles’ and ‘grandfathers’ that he has never met. Picture a group of shabbily dressed old men in dominantly brown-checked-double breasted suits, screaming colored ties and red muddy running shoes. It will be the same on Joy’s home as she and her family wait for the boy’s ‘people’.

When Joe’s party enters Joy’s parents’ compound, they will be chased back  because it’s the women who are supposed to enter first with four crates of soda as a gesture of good will. And so the games will begin. Joe will be told to appease the girl’s parents since they have taken the ‘extraordinary’ pains of bringing her up well and  schooling her up to university… 100,000. Next, Joe will be told of Joy’s great uncles who require blankets because the world has changed and the nights are ‘colder’. Being an intelligent young man, Joe will be confident that he has it all covered. Initial budget, 150,000. He will now think the process is just about over. He will be wrong. All this time, they will still have negotiated on the actual dowry. That is, the goats and cows. A goat costs Kshs. 4,500 on average. A cow, Kshs. 15,000 minimum. Two cows, Twenty goats. How good is your math? And so on will the negotiations go downhill.

Nitty Gritties
All through while the negotiations are going on, Joe will not be  allowed to utter a word.  Custom dictates that the young man and his parents are not to speak at the negotiating table. Their opinions do not count. Secondly, the boy’s family should cover the seating fees and transportation costs of the elders. By early afternoon, Joe will be in debt and Joy will be crying in her room. All this because a bunch of ‘elders’ that they never saw while growing up made some selfish decisions. Let’s give joe a noose to tighten on his neck. Minus Kshs. 100,000. He is also supposed to remember they had given friends and relatives a tentative wedding date. 6 months. Great. These two puppies Joe and Joy had wanted to finance their own wedding with the money they could raise by themselves. A small but lovely wedding. Now, they will be forced to turn to the society to help out.

Sunset
They will eventually get  married. On their wedding day, Joe will be expressionless while Joy will cry the whole time. Everyone will say they are crying because of the love. They will have guessed right. Such is the cost of love in Africa. The previously unknown relatives will disappear right after the pilau just as mysteriously as they had appeared. And the newly weds will be left with a huge amount of trash to clear up. The caterers will burst their phones the first week and threaten legal action. Did I also mention that they will have to lie that they are on honeymoon? Yep. Truth is, they will be in the house sleeping and not talking to each other. Outside the door will be the landlord. It’s always the middle of the month.

Curtains Close
A month later, they will have their first major fight. They can’t make ends meet. Yes they are still two people but for some reason, the budget will have shot through the roof. Joy will start missing her salon appointments on purpose. Joe will grow an ugly beard and forget there was ever an invention called deodorant. 6 months later, Joy will start coming home late and Joy will start having an affair with the boss. Let me stop before I get more creative. Wag your tail if you can fetch what I am trying to say.

Commentary
My fears are every African man’s whether wealthy or starting up. I would like to salute our African women, who have chosen to stick with us through thick and thin. Most of our parents met when they had nothing to call their own. I believe it would have been easier on them had customs been lenient. most of our fathers are still paying bride price decades later. Debt is carried down for generations. If not for us, let’s look at ways how we can change the lives of our children. Let’s give them the ultimate freedom. These are my paws for thought.


“BAIRET”

 

I dedicate this week to my brothers and sisters of the great nation of Somalia. I know that one day peace will return and so will the children of this nation to their homeland. The Somali are a resilient people who have a rich heritage and form one of the oldest societies and civilizations in Africa. I especially pray for the thousands of Somali who cross the Gulf of Aden every year in search for a better life. Many end up loosing their lives at sea while the rest trudge on in search for a new beginning. There are no promises. And for those who choose to remain, I salute you. Lastly, for those we have chosen to label as pirates. Let us sit and ask ourselves where it all started. Only then, can we find a solution.

Every year during the first week of  Zul-Hijjah, the eleventh month of the Islamic calendar, a woman in black robes is seen kneeling in prayer on the beach along the ancient harbour of Hobyo in Northern Somalia.  She covers herself fully that only her eyes can be seen. Those who have had the privilege of facing her claim hers are the coldest and darkest eyes they have ever seen. Some say she is an evil Jin. There is an urban legend that she can steal one’s soul if you dare look into her eyes. No one knows where she comes from or where she goes after praying. She has followed this ritual for the past 10 years. A few metres from where she prays, are shrines marked by piles of sandstone…

Her name is Ayaan Haweeyo, a top member of  the National Volunteer Coast Guard of Somalia (NVCG). In the free world, Ayaan and her organization are called ‘pirates’. She comes to remember, pray , meditate and renew a promise.  A promise that she will not rest until she takes back what once belonged to her land. The shrines represent her family whom she lost when she was 10. She has been fighting since then. Her heart is cold and conscience is a state that she can hardly recall. Only death can free her from the tempest that churns her lifeless heart. Concealed in her robes is her rifle. She is a warrior. She is known as ‘The Judge’. She dispenses justice in the high seas on behalf of the Somali people and her family. A justice she believes, is long overdue.

In 1991, after the defeat of Siad Barre by Farrah Aidid during the Somali revolution, Ayaan’s family moved further north to Hobyo from Benadir to escape the ensuing unrest. Her father was a fisherman while her mother stayed home and took care of them. In the years that followed, the increase in civil unrest made it hard for local fishermen as the open waters grew unsafe for fishing. Life was hard and in the famine that followed, Ayaan’s father and other local fishermen had to sneak out to sea every night in order to provide food for their families.

One morning in 1994 during the second month of Safar, Ayaan’s younger brother woke up with a high fever. In the days that followed, the young child started bleeding from the mouth and became bedridden. Ayaan’s parents took him to a nearby clinic for treatment unfortunately, the local UN doctors could not save the young child’s life. Eventually,young Mohamed died at the age of five. No cause. No explanation.

A few months later, her second youngest sister Hawa developed a strange skin disease that discolored her skin and caused painful boils. The young child was in so much pain that even covering her in the lightest sheets made her scream as her skin had become overly sensitive.  They tried taking her to every doctor they could find but to no avail. She eventually went into shock and died on the first day of fasting in the month of Ramadhan at only seven years of age.

The remaining family was devastated. As they tried to piece up what had happened, Ayaan’s father decided that they would move south to Kismayo to ward off the ‘bad luck’. On the eve of the day that they were supposed to relocate, Ayaan’s father did not return home from fishing. Early the next day, Ayaan and her mother were visited by a relative who broke the news that her father had been killed by an American patrol boat in the high seas, suspected of being a pirate. It was too much too bear. The young Ayaan and her mother mourned bitterly in the days that followed not knowing what to do or where to go. As if the suffering was not enough, death came knocking yet another time and Ayaan’s mother died of a mixture of abdominal haemorage and heartbreak in the month that followed. Ayaan was alone. She had nowhere to go and no one to turn to. She decided to join the rebels as a soldier against the the american led Unified Task Force. By this time, it was widely believed that the Americans were using peace keeping as a way of controlling Somalia’s vast portions of unexplored oil fields.

As the war in the rest of the country raged on, reports started flowing in of strange diseases similar to the ones which had taken their two children.  There were rumors that they had been caused by the toxic waste dumped of the Somali coast by european ships. Months before, some humanitarian aid workers had warned people of eating fish from the Indian ocean citing that it contained high levels of radiation. The main cause of the strange diseases. People were dying everywhere and fishermen were disappearing at sea.

At some point such health cases became so common that the Somali population along the coast started believing that the rumors were true. In addition, the fishing waters that rightfully belonged to the Somali were taken over by western and asian trawlers who had taken advantage of Somalia’s unrest to fish illegally.

Ayaan’s  story is shared by thousands of Somalis around the world. Some of whom are members of various armed outfits that patrol the waters off the Somali coast and as far as Yemen. As the sun sets on the Somali waters, about a thousand Somalis in deferent gangs patrol the waters of the Indian ocean fearlessly to attack and take hostage ships passing through these parts of the ocean. They later demand for ransom often running into millions of dollars for the release of the ships and their crew.  For some of these militia, it is for the love of their country. Others are motivated by the huge sums of money  that come in ransom. For others like Ayaan, it is the pain of unnecessary loss that drives them. All in all, we bundle all of these groups up and call them Pirate. My Somali brothers pronounce the same same word differently. It sounds something like “Ba-i-rate”.  Bairate


Here are some of my Research Notes and some of their sources

• Following the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004, there have emerged allegations that after the outbreak of the Somali Civil War in late 1991, Somalia’s long, remote shoreline was used as a dump site for the disposal of toxic waste. The huge waves which battered northern Somalia after the tsunami are believed to have stirred up tonnes of nuclear and toxic waste that was illegally dumped in Somali waters by several European firms. The European Green Party followed up these revelations by presenting before the press and the European Parliament in Strasbourg copies of contracts signed by two European companies—the Italian Swiss firm, Achair Partners, and an Italian waste broker, Progresso—and representatives of the warlords then in power, to accept 10 million tonnes of toxic waste in exchange for $80 million (then about £60 million). According to a report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) assessment mission, there are far higher than normal cases of respiratory infections, mouth ulcers and bleeding, abdominal haemorrhages and unusual skin infections among many inhabitants of the areas around the northeastern towns of Hobbio and Benadir on the Indian Ocean coast—diseases consistent with radiation sickness. UNEP continues that the current situation along the Somali coastline poses a very serious environmental hazard not only in Somalia but also in the eastern Africa sub-region. – Wikipedia (Piracy in Somalia)

• “It is a response to greedy Western nations, who invade and exploit Somalia’s water resources illegally. It is not a piracy, it is self defence.” – Muammar Al-Gaddaffi

• “Somalia has been used as a dumping ground for hazardous waste starting in the early 1990s, and continuing through the civil war there”, and “European companies found it to be very cheap to get rid of the waste, costing as little as $2.50 a tonne, where waste disposal costs in Europe are something like $1000 a tonne.” -Nick Nuttall, United Nations Environmental Programme,

 


The New Girl In Town: Just Remember Everything Will Be SAWA

Have you seen The Bigger Picture? Well it’s one of the blogs that have inspired me and given me pointers in writing my own. I am honored to know the owner of this blog and she happens to be a good friend. I have taken time to study her work especially in writing and photography. My conclusion? She is gifted. Meet Susan Wong, a Chinese Canadian who has travelled the world extensively. Wong is a traveller, writer, radio personality, photographer and fashion designer. When she told me she was on a flight on her way here, I didn’t waste the chance to request that she write me a blog note while on the plane. Today was her first day on radio (Capital Fm 98.4). She was good!

By Susan ‘Lucky’ Wong

My body ached and my head throbbed from exhaustion.  Coming up on 20 hours of travelling time, jetlag was definitely catching up to me.  As I flipped through my colourful Kenyan guidebook in a desperate last attempt to absorb as much information about my new home, the captain spoke over the intercom and informed us that we were descending into Nairobi, and moments later the flickering city lights welcomed us.

Mesmerized by the enchanting lights and the new adventures that awaited me, I reluctantly closed my guide book and put it away.  I realized that no amount of homework could really prepare me for my relocation to Nairobi.  I suppose the best preparation was to put aside all expectations and just humbly enjoy every moment, adventure and opportunity that crosses my path.  And with that mindset, I penned this journal entry to myself just before the plane touched down…

Dear Self,

 

Young Lady, you are no stranger to Africa, Kenya, Nairobi or the challenging task of relocation.  With that said, ignore those butterflies in your stomach; stop thinking about the ‘what ifs’ if you had made another choice; and tell your Mom’s chanting of “Nairobbery….” In your mind to hush!

 

Undoubtedly there will be a lot of challenges ahead.  You will face challenges that seem impossible to prevail.  You will meet people that will challenge who you are and the core of what you’re made of.  You can do this.  Remember that you’ve been blessed with this opportunity to follow your passion and perhaps answer a call.  There are amazing people that are waiting to support you.  Be bold. Just be you.

 

Don’t forget about the lessons you’ve learned in the past.  And yes, you’ve learned so much in Ethiopia from the past few years.  Take everything with a grain of salt.  Trust people until they give you a reason to not trust them.

 

Enjoy yourself and don’t forget to explore the diverse restaurants in town!

 

Don’t fret.  Chin up Girl because everything will just be Sawa.

Voice over the intercom: “Welcome to Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.  The temperature outside is 18 degrees and expect a light drizzle …. Thanks for choosing….and we hope you have enjoyed your flight.”